If you believe your monochrome toner printers should get you through the next couple of years, think again. The customer communications business is transforming. Money is pouring into research and development for production inkjet presses, ink, and paper. Companies throughout the industry are investing in the new technology. Waiting two more years to offer full color digital printing may put you way behind the competition.

We should expect an increase in print service providers migrating their monochrome toner applications to inkjet platforms over the next few years. Inkjet transition costs have decreased since the technology was first introduced. Mid-volume inkjet machines that generate cut sheets are now on the market, providing opportunities for companies that couldn’t afford to make the change before. Print service providers can migrate away from their cut sheet lasers gradually, without changing their finishing equipment to handle rolled paper.

Giving Clients What They Want

Service providers can add digital color to traditional monochrome documents, which improves corporate branding for their clients and makes those documents visually compatible with electronic versions. Further exploiting inkjet capabilities, transactional documents can feature full color marketing messages, eliminating pre-printed inserts and allowing for personalization and more precise messaging.

Organizations striving to achieve a single customer view want their printed communications to contribute to improved customer experiences. That almost requires service providers to offer color inkjet printing. Clients want their paper documents to include recognizable images consistent with graphics featured in communications their customers encounter on web, email, mobile, or social channels. Print companies that cannot provide this level of service will eventually start losing customers.

Improved Operations

Once they are no longer required to segment jobs according to pre-printed paper stock, inkjet-enabled service providers can do more work in less time by concatenating formerly separate print jobs. Expected labor savings include time spent between jobs to load and unload paper, retrieving and returning warehoused materials, inventory, filling out production logs, and performing quality control steps for small jobs.

Even more beneficial is the practice of merging documents from several jobs before printing. Print files optimized for postal delivery allow service providers to achieve lower postage rates. When print from several small jobs are merged, print and mail operations can also reduce inter-job activities in the finishing area. Time spent on tasks such as adjusting folder plates, loading insert hoppers, or changing outbound envelopes is reduced.

If You Started from Scratch…

Unless print service providers are satisfied with dwindling volumes and smaller profit margins, they cannot afford to procrastinate any longer about adding inkjet color to their present businesses. Anyone who designed a print and mail operation from scratch today wouldn’t even consider an exclusively monochrome printing solution. Considering the apparent trends, continuing to rely solely on black and white document production for base revenue seems unwise.

This printing technology change will require research, planning, and specialized help. Choosing the inkjet press is just the start. Switching from toner to ink can force major workflow changes. Understanding the properties of color printing requires education. Handling unfamiliar print streams or working with new document composition software involves training. Using tools to reformat documents or combine print from multiple jobs might spark searches for new talent. Mastering all these new areas takes time.

Print service providers should put together their plans to add color inkjet to their operations now. What once was optional is becoming a must-have.

Mike Porter uses his experience in customer communications to create custom improvement plans for his clients. No two situations are alike. As President of Print/Mail Consultants, Mike works with in-plants and service providers to help them prepare for the future. Follow @PMCmike on Twitter or contact Mike directly at mporter@printmailconsultants.com.